A Chair For My Mother Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
PreK, K, 1, 2
by Vera Williams - A literature guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others. Spanish Version Attached.

Is your child a saver or a spender? Teaching our children to make choices with money is important because in too few years they need to manage their own money to support themselves. Share the story of A Chair for My Mother to teach your children about the joy and excitement of saving for a special purchase. The characters in the story lose their home and furniture in a fire. In a wonderful community effort, they are given many of the things they need for their new apartment, but not a comfortable chair. Through scrimping and saving, the family saves money in a jar until they can buy the chair of their dreams where they snuggle in the end, proud of their combined effort. Frugality can be taught, and perhaps we all can do a better job helping our children learn about saving money and making wise choices. This story is not only about saving money, but also about families (and the community) supporting each other and working together for a common goal.

Before Reading

ASK: What would you do with $10 if I gave it to you right now? Listen without judgment and without trying to influence the choices. (You may need to help younger students understand what you can buy with $10 (list food, toys, books) or what larger purchase it could go toward.)

SHOW: Look at the pictures on the very last page of the book. What can you tell about this family from these two little pictures?

CONNECT: There are three things you can do with money that you earn: spend it, save it, or donate it. Let’s read to find out what the family in this story does with their money.

During Reading

ASK: How did family and neighbors help when the girl’s family found their home burned down? How did they feel about the help?

SHOW: The chair that they dreamed about. How do you think they felt when they found it? Notice how the artist made the chair stand out in the picture?

CONNECT: Have you ever helped or been helped by extended family or a neighbor? What happened and how did it make you feel?

After Reading

ASK: Why was the chair important to them? What did the family do with their money: save it, spend it, or donate it? What do you think they will do with their money next?

SHOW: Look at pictures throughout the book. Find examples of the girl’s family loving and supporting her.

CONNECT: Is there something that your family would like to have (something for the house, a trip, some time together) but it costs too much money? Are you willing to add your own money to get it?



  1. Ask the child to propose ideas for saving. Help him or her set a personal goal by discussing costs and how long it will take to save for desired items.
  2. Talk about why people choose to donate money. Tell the child what nonprofit groups you support financially. Talk about why those issues are important to you. Recall from the story how people shared with the family who lost everything. Help the child choose a charity related to his or her interests.
  3. Draw a circle graph and divide into three sections—save, spend, donate—to give a visual idea of how some people may use the money they take in (suggestion: 20-40% savings, 50-70% money to spend, and 10% charity). Discuss what adults might save for and on what they need to spend money. Help the child decide how much of his or her earned money will go into each section of the bank.
  4. Make a homemade bank with three parts. Use the bank to sort earned money into three categories: money to spend on immediate wants, money to save for a special purchase, and money to donate.
      • You may use a variety of recycled containers for the three-part bank such as water bottles, milk containers, cardboard tubes, or potato chip tubes. Glue or tape the three cylinder-shaped containers side by side so the openings all face the same way.
      • Gather a variety of collage and art materials to use as decorations (buttons, glitter, cut up fabric, pieces of felt, markers, glue, etc.)
      • Label the sections of the bank with spend, save and donate.
      • You may wish to match funds for saving and donating to discourage immediate spending.
  5. Contact a local community center and find out if any people in the community have a furniture need such as a crib. Set a financial goal and get a large jar for everyone in the family to start saving coins toward the purchase. When you have saved enough coins, go to the store together, buy the crib, and deliver it to the community center. Alternatively, give the amount of money needed for the purchase to the community center.